How the federal government shutdown affects Texas

Star Telegram, Texas Press Reports —

Visits to the George W. Bush Presidential Library will temporarily stop.

So will visits to national parks.

And, while any taxes owed are still due, no one will be at the other
end of the phone for people calling the Internal Revenue Service to ask
questions.

These are just a handful of the ways a government shutdown could affect Texans.

Political observers say a short shutdown likely wouldn't have a
dramatic effect on citizens nationwide. But a lengthy one could end up
hurting all sides.

“While partisans on both sides enjoy a good fight, most citizens
don't,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas
Christian University. “You don't want to infuriate the non-politicos in
our country — the people who go to work and do their jobs and vote on
Election Day but don't become involved in partisan politics.”

Bush's presidential library in Dallas — which opened earlier this
year amid great fanfare — is closed, as are other National Archives and
Records Administration facilities.

That means George H.W. Bush's library in College Station and Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential library in Austin are closed.

“We will not be able to sell tickets, update this website, post to
Facebook or tweet during this closure,” according to a message on the
George W. Bush Presidential Library website.

At the same time, national parks throughout Texas and the country —
including the Big Bend National Park and the San Antonio Missions
National Historic Park — will close. Campers have two days to leave the
parks. Some visitor centers at national parks are closed as well.

Texans and citizens throughout the country are still on the hook for
any taxes that are due, but IRS audits are temporarily suspended. And
other taxpayer services, such as toll-free help lines, will be closed
during the shutdown as well.

Among the services not expected to be affected: air travel, food
safety, mail delivery, the bulk of Social Security and Medicare payouts
and work at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth.

Federal courts won't immediately be affected unless the shutdown lasts about 10 days or so.

“If there is still no appropriation after 10 days, then the Judiciary will operate under terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act,”
said Jason D. Hawkins, the attorney who runs the North Texas Public
Defenders Office, which covers a 96,000-square-mile region stretching
from Fort Worth to the Panhandle.

That means “essential work” such as the resolution of criminal cases
could continue. After 10 days, employees would still have to work but
they wouldn't be paid until Congress approved a retroactive payment of
salaries.

Officials do believe there will be much confusion.

“Our office may be the only possible point of contact in the federal
government for constituents who need federal assistance,” according to a
statement from the office of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville.
“This assistance is even more imperative as we are upon the first day of
Affordable Care Act enrollment, October 1.

“Therefore, our office will remain staffed to help constituents. Our
constituents may call our D.C. office or Lewisville office with any
questions they may have.”

Road work

On area roads, construction that is already
under way won't be affected, officials at the North Central Texas
Council of Governments said. Day-to-day transit services are typically
paid out of local tax dollars and also won't be interrupted.

But projects in the planning stages — planning for transit projects
such as the proposed TEX Rail commuter line from Fort Worth to Grapevine
and DFW Airport, for example — could be seriously disrupted, especially
if the standoff continues more than a few days, they said.

About 91 percent of Federal Transit Administration employees could be
furloughed by a government shutdown, said Michael Morris, council of
governments transportation planner.

In North Texas, that means contractors working on the
behind-the-scenes planning for a transit project may not get paid on
time, he said.

“Our agency has a fund for events like this. [But] it wouldn't take
long for us to spend $3 million from our rainy day fund on transit
projects, and it sits there and we're not being reimbursed,” Morris
said.

Morris added that the prospect of a shutdown “is not a problem if it
lasts a week. It becomes a problem if it lasts longer than that.”

Meanwhile, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery is fully funded
through mid-October and the 15 daily burials won't be affected, the
director told the newspaper. While maintenance employees might have to
be furloughed, burial employees will mow the grass.

Update, 10:16 a.m. Wednesday: Federal courts will remain open in
North Texas for at least 10 more business days, The Dallas Morning News
reports.

The FBI remained largely intact. Other federal workers continued to control air traffic and screen air travelers.

But Federal Aviation Administration inspectors who keep close tabs on
everything from airplane maintenance to pilot performance were
furloughed, The News reported.

The shutdown also halted the federal investigation of the West
Fertilizer plant explosion by the Chemical Safety and Hazard
Investigation Board. Sarah Saldaña, the U.S. attorney for the Northern
District of Texas, told The News that a little less than half of her
employees were at home.

Update, 10:12 a.m. Wednesday: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports
that recorded messages at facilities such as The National Archives at
Fort Worth informed callers that services are currently unavailable and
workers “will respond when we are authorized to return to work.” At the
federal building in downtown Fort Worth, it appeared Tuesday that most
offices remained open — although it wasn't possible to determine how
long they would remain that way.

Update, 1:03 p.m. Tuesday: The IRS assistance office at the Earle
Cabell federal building in downtown Dallas is closed. A sign on the door
says “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Other information posted on the door includes an address for mailing a
payment, and a referral to www.IRS.gov for the latest information. IRS
help centers are closed across the country.

The Dallas passport office on the 11th floor of the federal building is open for business.

Update, 12:26 p.m.: The Justice Department asked for a delay in the
trial over the merger of American Airlines and US Airways because of the
government shutdown. The merger was weeks away from closing when the
government sued to block it on antitrust grounds. The trial in the case
is set to begin on Nov. 25.

In court papers, the department argues that the government shutdown
prevents it from getting ready for the trial. But the Justice Department
says that if the court orders the trial to go forward, its lawyers can
keep working because the court order would be its legal authorization
for the spending.

Meantime, a 2 p.m. press conference has been scheduled that will
feature Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and American Airlines CEO Tom
Horton. Abbott's office may be dropping or amending its opposition to
the merger, KERA's Shelley Kofler reports.

Update, 12:06 p.m.: In Fort Worth, a few hundred workers at the Naval
Air Station Joint Reserve Base have been furloughed, officials told
KERA. Most of them are administrative and office workers. Military
members continue to work, as are fire department and safety members. On
an average weekday, about 3,500 people work full-time at the base.

The station's commissary will close starting Wednesday.

Workers were told to bring personal items home and to place an
out-of-office note on their emails, said Don Ray, a base public affairs
officer. Ray is being furloughed, too.

Update, 11:43 a.m.: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Fort Worth
district has announced the closure of all corps-operated campgrounds and
parks.

Starting today, the corps won't accept reservations or allow visitors
into its facilities. Campers who were on site before the shutdown began
have to leave the campgrounds by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Those who have to leave the campgrounds by Wednesday will receive a
partial refund. Customers who had already booked reservations may cancel
for a full refund. Call 1-888-448-1474 to request a refund.

• The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is closed. The
library will not be selling tickets or updating its website or social
media accounts. The George W. Bush Institute remains open. Café 43 and
the museum store will stay open, as well. Elsewhere in Texas, the Lyndon
B. Johnson and George H.W. Bush presidential libraries are closed.

• Officials at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth
said about half of the 1,600 civilian employees would be furloughed,
KXAS-TV is reporting. Stores and non-essential offices on the base are
expected to close at noon.

• National parks in Texas and across the country are closed. In
Texas, that includes Big Bend National Park and the San Antonio
Missions.

• At Fort Hood, KUT News is reporting that some civilian workers are
now on furlough and many services on the post are either shut down or
scaled back – including the commissary. Right now, the medical center at
Fort Hood will be open at least through the rest of this week.

• In Houston, the Johnson Space Center is closed.

• In Texas and across the country, mail will still be delivered,
Social Security checks will still be mailed, the exchanges that are part
of the new health care law will still kick into gear today. Other
“essential” services will continue.